The Senate has officially voted to confirm President Trump’s Secretary of Defense pick Mark Esper with an end result of 90-8.
Esper had been serving as the Army secretary and served as an Army infantryman in the 1990-91 Gulf War. Most recently, he served as a lobbyist for Raytheon, a defense contractor. It was this work that sparked a heated debate between Esper and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
BizPac Review reported on the spat, which ended in the Senator throwing a fit over being reminded that she had time constraints just like everyone else.
She demanded that Esper promise to not accept paid defense contract work for at least four years after the end of his government service, claiming that “the American people deserve to know that you’re making decisions in our country’s best security interests, not in your own financial interests.” When he would not make such a commitment, Warren ripped into him.
“You can’t make those commitments to this committee. That means you should not be confirmed as Secretary of Defense,” the Democrat declared, demanding Esper respond with a yes or no answer even as he attempted to explain the Pentagon process that addresses and prevents the conflict of interest she was implying.
Esper was allowed to respond and didn’t flinch in doing so.
“At the age of 18 I went to West Point, and I swore an oath to defend this Constitution, and I embraced a motto called duty and honor and country. And I’ve lived my life in accordance with those values ever since then. I went to war for this country. I served overseas for this country,” he said.
“I’ve stepped down from jobs that paid me well more than what I was working anywhere else. And each time it was to serve the public good and to serve the young men and women of our armed services,” Esper told the committee.
“So, no, I disagree — I think the presumption is that anybody that comes from the business or the corporate world is corrupt,” he added, landing on one of Warren’s campaign talking points.
Warren attempted to keep the grilling going, but the chairman politely reminded her she was out of time.
“Okay, so I’m asking the question. No, this is not right, Mr. Chairman. He does not — I didn’t ask a question at the end,” she protested.
“I have not gone over. He has gone over. And he is not willing to make a commitment that he will not engage in conflicts of interest with that company for which he was a lobbyist,” Warren exclaimed. “This is outrageous.”
Her behavior was so unbecoming that her fellow Senators later apologized.
Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe said that what Warren said was “unfair” and claimed Esper “handled it beautifully.”
Florida Republican Rick Scott had a lengthier response.
“I’m very disappointed that Sen. Warren would demonize you after you decades of service simply because you served in the private sector. There’s a lot of us who have been in the private sector and that doesn’t take anything away from our ability to do our job. I guess she just needed a moment for her presidential campaign.”
Scott weighed in on Esper’s confirmation and congratulated the new Defense Secretary on Tuesday:
Congrats to @EsperDoD on being an confirmed as Secretary of Defense today!
Sec. Esper has dedicated his life to service of this country and I’m confident he will continue to serve our nation well in this new roll. Read my statement⬇️ pic.twitter.com/qSklNK68tY
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) July 23, 2019
Despite, Warren’s feeble protests, conservative think tank Heritage Foundation found the Senate vote to confirm Esper a wise move:
Esper is a West Point graduate and retired as a lieutenant colonel after 21 years of military service.
He has been serving as secretary of the Army since November 2017.
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) July 23, 2019
While serving as secretary of the Army, Esper spoke here about the U.S. National Defense Strategy at an event hosted by @TomSpoehr, director of our Center for National Defense.
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) July 23, 2019
Whether Esper’s confirmation brings more contentious moments, time will tell.
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